After years of directing brilliant and complex Polish films, Krzysztof Zanussi has helmed a simple and moving breakthrough pic about a crotchety old composer coaxed out of retirement by an inspired musicologist and a sweet young muse.
Max von Sydow delivers a definitive performance as a silenced classic composer and Holocaust survivor who re-blossoms from a miserable old drinker into a meticulous artist when Stefan (Lothaire Bluteau) arrives as ‘guardian angel.’ Casting is superb, though Sarah Miles’ stiff delivery (in the wife role) is pic’s drawback.
Bluteau (Jesus of Montreal) does his usual low-key routine to perfection as the Polish music student who becomes obsessed with a melody he hears in his sleep (thesp’s Quebecois accent is a non-issue in the film).
Stefan tracks down von Sydow in Copenhagen and, after much (believable) resistance, convinces him to compose a complex symphony on his neglected piano. Love interests take fascinating twists as loyal wife Miles reluctantly accepts her husband’s music secretary (Danish thesp Sophie Grabol, a fresh screen presence) as his young lover.